According to the AP, about 50 inmates are allegedly responsible for requesting $1 million in fraudulent refunds from the IRS and collecting around $100,000 for their diligent efforts. The report states that the inmates used “a standard IRS form” (we’re guessing Form 843?) most for $5,000 and that some checks were sent directly to the jail. Oh and the best part is that the scheme was foiled by “a how-to note…found in an inmate’s cell,” rather than a crack squad of investigators.
To say that the IRS needed some good press would be a gross understatement, but for crissakes, they need some good press. Sure getting Nicolas Cage to bone up $14 mil is okay and everyone is stoked for Ron Howard to make the Service hilarious but they could use a big break right now. We called the Florida branch to get their ideas but the spokesman told us that the Herald pretty much had it right and that’s all that he was saying.
At this point, nothing short of Doug Shulman capturing Osama Bin Laden (with an IRS-issued Remington no less) while singing God Bless America and apologizing for all the unanswered customer service phone calls will get the American public to looking fondly upon the IRS. If you’ve got better ideas, let us know but that would be our suggestion for an improved image campaign.
Inmates at S. Fla. jail accused of scamming IRS [AP via Miami Herald]
What’s the saying about trends? We can’t remember it but after the suicide attack on the IRS last week, we now bring you a less violent but equally ineffective middle finger to the IRS.
Terry Hoskins, of Moscow, Ohio had IRS liens slapped on his carpeting store and other properties. Apparently he used his personal residence as collateral on the business and these other properties, leading his bank to foreclose on his home. Hoskins wasn’t okay with that:
Whether Terry the Bulldozer was looking to get a Facebook following out of this, isn’t entirely clear. But we will give the guy credit; even if he did this to himself by putting up his personal residence for some bad business deals, he’s got pretty creative for the sake of making a point.
“I made a bad business decision. Fuck you IRS! Up yours, RiverHills Bank! You think I’m not serious? I will rent heavy machinery to prove my point. I will make my loved ones temporarily homeless. I will go on a local NBC affiliate to talk about it. How do you like me now?”
Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be worse. If that attention whore Joe Stack hadn’t gone on his little flight, Terry could be enjoying Joe the Plumber-esque fame right now. Next time, Terry.
Don’t we all. But seriously, what the hell is wrong with celebrities that can’t manage to pay their taxes? CPAs aren’t that expensive.
Eve isn’t in Nicolas Cage tax trouble with her little bill to the IRS but then again, who is?
The hip-hop star/actress/Who Wants to be a Millionaire contestant (charity, we hope?) owes around $357k from four different liens, two filed by the IRS and two by the state of California from ’08 and ’09.
So let’s brainstorm to help get this girl out of trouble. Is Barbershop 3 in the works? The Glee thing seems to have gone okay but do TV gigs pay enough? She’s not making Seinfeld money after all. Is WWTBAM still a series? Maybe they’re running it in the old Soviet Bloc and she can get on it there…
Hip-hop star Eve hops over tax bill [Tax Watchdog]
It would be very easy to use words like “insane” and “rambling” to describe the manifesto/suicide note left by alleged the alleged pilot of the plane that crashed in Austin today. The actions taken by him were undoubtedly insane and the note he left today shows that he was sick of struggling.
The long/short of it is that Joseph Stack was an engineer who was grappling with the IRS over his status as independent contractas denied employee status and was thus subject to taxes on income that he had not previously remitted to the IRS.
When an engineer (or any other consultant for that matter) goes independent they’re not “employees” thus they don’t have tax withheld from their pay (ordinarily via a W-2) and companies/clients report the payment to the IRS via 1099 (often time with nothing withheld). If engineers not careful and report a lot of income and no tax withheld the IRS will come back and say “where the hell is ours?”
The other situation is if they work almost exclusively for one “client” the IRS might say, “you’re really an employee because you don’t have income from other companies.” The Company then gets in trouble because they should be remitting payroll taxes (Social Security/Medicare) and the employee could get in trouble if they aren’t making estimated tax payments.
Engineers often have to face the facts as to whether or not they are truly an independent contractors or not and Stack seems to have struggled with this for many years. The amendment to the tax in 1986 was what haunted him, “The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d). Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave. Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.”
Obviously, this was very personal for him.
Without all the facts surrounding his professional situation, it’s impossible to know if Stack’s frustrations were legitimate but his note has brought out the extreme political factions Headlines like this: “Austin Plane Crash Labeled ‘Right-Wing Domestic Terror Attack’ By Obama Supporters” are popping up already and message boards are filling up with comments like:
“YOU need to take an ounce of responsibility. All you repubbers[sic] are complaining about Bush but still putting all the blame for Bush’s errors on Obama or “The Government”. This plane guy decided to attack the Government. Pilot-guy sounds like a thousand posts I have read on thee[sic] boards.”
“There is no point in ‘dialogue’ with you right wingers, you guys are the taliban of america.”
Hell, there’s already a Facebook fan page set up touting the “The philosophy of Joe Stack” which if you read one of his last sentences, shows just how fed up and desperate he had become, “Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer”
If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?” The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”. I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.
While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.
Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.
And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!
How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.
How did I get here?
My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.
The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.
That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.
Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of “paying my dues”), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.
On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I’m sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father. I realized this at a very young age.
The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was social security to live on.
In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time. When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me). I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread. I couldn’t quite go there, but the impression was made. I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.
Return to the early ‘80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ contract software engineer… and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.
For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report (http://www.synergistech.com/1706.shtml#ConferenceCommitteeReport) regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here (http://www.synergistech.com/ic-taxlaw.shtml).
SEC. 1706. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN TECHNICAL PERSONNEL.
(a) IN GENERAL – Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:
(d) EXCEPTION. – This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.
• “another person” is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.
• “taxpayer” is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.
• “individual”, “employee”, or “worker” is you.
Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it’s not very complicated. The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d). Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave. Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.
During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time. I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity. This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their “freedom”. Oh, and don’t forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn’t bill clients.
After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise. The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren’t going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists). This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.
Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle. If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.
Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks. Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s. Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that. The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco. However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall. Again, I lost my retirement.
Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed. Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare. Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, ‘special’ facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months. This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive. Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY! After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.
By this time, I’m thinking that it might be good for a change. Bye to California, I’ll try Austin for a while. So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work. The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.
To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA. This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income. I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need. The sleazy government decided that they disagreed. But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out. Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.
So now we come to the present. After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I’d never enter another accountant’s office again. But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle. After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.
When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order. I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting. Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl’s unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn’t have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit. By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.
This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented). Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone. The end result is… well, just look around.
I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.
As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone. The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government. Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough). In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.
I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.
I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.
I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.
The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
Joe Stack (1956-2010)
No not a feature film. Introducing more than thirty minutes (we assume) of Doug Shulman would be too much for boob-tube enthusiasts to bear.
Ron Howard’s production company, Imagine Entertainment, is scheduled to shoot an unnamed pilot for Fox that will center around an IRS district office. It will star David Krumholtz, of Numb3rs fame, who will play Spencer, an agent who is “trying to find nobility in his work.”
This already sounds hilarious. Not to mention that the mere thought of accountants with guns is hysterical. Plus, the fact that the IRS Commissioner doesn’t prepare his own tax return because he thinks the tax code is too complex is just one example of the real sitcom that is the IRS.
Plus the writer of the pilot is Brent Forrester, a current writer and producer for The Office so we’re guaranteed the awkward scenes will be authentic in both words and actions.
The Hollywood Reporter states that the IRS sitcom is “Howard’s first passion series project since the Emmy-winning ‘Arrested Development,'” so now we’re double-excited. The subject matter on its own is hysterical but if you add Arrested Development passion with The Office awkwardness, plus the Numb3rs guy? This might be best non-Jack Bauer reason to watch Fox.
[h/t TaxProf Blog]
‘Cause they’re in the market. For those of you that still doubt how serious of a force the Internal Revenue Service is, you’d better start paying attention because the the Service is in the market for guns. You would think, that with a certain hawkish administration recently in charge, every government agency would have
arms dealers Smith & Wesson on speed dial but maybe change really did occur in DC.
Never mind that for now. The IRS is taking bids right now and they know what they want:
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intends to purchase sixty Remington Model 870 Police RAMAC #24587 12 gauge pump-action shotguns for the Criminal Investigation Division. The Remington parkerized shotguns, with fourteen inch barrel, modified choke, Wilson Combat Ghost Ring rear sight and XS4 Contour Bead front sight, Knoxx Reduced Recoil Adjustable Stock, and Speedfeed ribbed black forend, are designated as the only shotguns authorized for IRS duty based on compatibility with IRS existing shotgun inventory, certified armorer and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts.
The only conclusion we can come to is that somebody (Joe Francis?, Nic Cage?) is about to get their doors kicked down with extreme fucking prejudice. OR the initial visits of the thousands the IRS is making haven’t gone so well and arming their agents to the teeth should help them get their point across. OR maybe Doug Shulman just loves the cold steel of a 12 gauge against his naked skin. Whatever is going on, it’s no joke.
Apparently the IRS is not one for timing. Earlier this month the Service announced that if you get paid to crank out 1040s, your life as you know it is more or less over. Well, at least a little more inconvenient. Okay, it’s hella-inconvenient.
Back when the new regulations were announced the Service let it be known that since it can’t get these new regulations implemented for 2010, it was still stepping up its efforts for getting all up in tax preparers’ shit.
The first step being to be to send 10,000 letters to paid preparers nationwide letting them know that they need to be on their A-game. The letters were intended for, “preparers…with large volumes of specific tax returns where the IRS typically sees frequent errors,” and that they should be “vigilant” for errors related to “Schedule C income and expenses, Schedule A deductions, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the First Time Homebuyer Credit.”
Well then. That should cover about EVERY TAX PREPARER IN THE COUNTRY.
Anyway, the IRS is following up the 10,000 “Dear Joe Kristan” letters with phone calls to set up sit-downs with “thousands” of preparers. According to William Stromsem, who wrote a piece over at CPA2Biz, these are “urgent” calls:
In at least one case, the IRS called a practitioner at home and spoke with the spouse by name, asking for a response within three hours and then calling back before that time was up. Another practitioner, who was unable to schedule a meeting during a busy time was threatened with having the refusal passed up the line to a supervisor.
The piece goes to tell us that the visits will be performed in the coming weeks and months and may last up to 3 hours. Does anyone see a problem with this yet?
These chats are designed to be friendly reminders of all the pitfalls out there in tax preparer land; not a compliance visit (but they will remind you of the penalties that can be assessed for any malfeasance). Regardless of the pleasant intentions, the timing has irked CPAs to no end and we can’t say that we blame them. Hope no one is expecting an apology. And one more thing, we’d like to know how the Commish’s CPA feels about this whole thing. Just for fun; he should get a letter.
IRS ‘10,000 Letters’ Program Angers CPAs [CPA2Biz]
Late on Friday, the IRS declared the earthquake in Haiti to be qualified disaster for federal tax purposes. Call us impatient but did it really need to take that long? It doesn’t seem like it was that tough of a call:
Qualified disasters include presidentially declared disasters and any other event that the Treasury Secretary determines to be catastrophic. The IRS has determined that the earthquake in Haiti that occurred this month is an event of catastrophic nature for purposes of the federal tax law.
We appreciate the complexities of the tax law and we’re certainly aware that tax season is under way but couldn’t someone at the IRS put out a one sentence statement saying, “Yeah, definitely a disaster,” say, the following day? That Friday even? Were there other, more pressing matters on the to-do list? The disaster qualifications must be more subjective than we imagine.
Oh Joe Francis, why won’t you just take your Douche of the Decade trophy and ride off into the sunset?
Actually we know why. The IRS froze $22 million of Douche of D’s money because he still owes them $23 million for taxes owed in 2001, 2002, and 2003. J. Fran would not stand for such aggression and, being the savvy tax guy that he is, sued the Service to get access to his accounts. He concluded that the IRS was just bent out of shape that he got out of additional jail time.
The IRS claims that the real reason that they’re freezing DoD’s assets is that he tried moving the money offshore after his plea. And unless you’re Joe Francis, you know is not such best course of action these days.
IRS can freeze ‘Girls Gone Wild’ money [Don’t Mess With Taxes]
We’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth stating again: are everyone’s expectations for the IRS unreasonable?
The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, has released her annual report to Congress and it points out (among other shortcomings) that the IRS provides “unacceptable” customer service.
Sigh. Need we remind everyone that we’re talking about the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? This is not Nordstrom’s where you can snap your fingers and another pair of gabardines appear.
Oh sure, maybe the Service is lowering its expectations: “[T]he agency’s goal is to connect 71 percent of callers to a real person, down from a recent high of 87 percent in 2004,” but doesn’t that seem reasonable for the IRS? Are we missing something? Is there some other dimension where the IRS is revered for its efficiency?
IRS Too Busy to Talk to 3 in 10 Who Call for Help [AP via ABC]
National Taxpayer Advocate Report.pdf
Any tax preparers out there that got their stripes by virtue of an 8 hour course in the basement of a church will have to start hitting the books. Today, the IRS announced that it is putting a stop to all the amateur 1040 jockeys out there by issuing new requirements for all paid tax preparers.
The new requirements came after complaints from taxpayer rights’ groups who wanted stronger oversight over the industry. Apparently there are too many “tax professionals” that can’t tell the difference between a W-2 and a sack of doorknobs.
[S]tarting in 2011, all paid tax preparers will have to register with the IRS and include a unique identification number on any returns they prepare. Preparers will be given three years to pass a competency exam in either individual or small business taxation.
Attorneys, certified public accountants and enrolled agents will not be required to pass the competency tests. They will remain subject to the requirements of their respective licensing bodies.
But the exams and new annual, continuing education requirements will impact likely hundreds of thousands of preparers, from employees of chain preparation firms like H&R Block Inc. and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. to mom-and-pop storefronts that offer tax preparation as one of several services.
Three years to pass an exam? Even the dimmest of CPA Exam candidates manage to finish in 18 months. Also, we’re curious as to what diabolical plot the H&R Blocks and Jackson Hewitts of the world will devise in order to speed their professionals into compliance.
Regardless of the shortfalls, Doug “Don’t expect me to apologize” Shulman said that the new requirements were ‘long overdue’. He also said that the Service will be forming a task force to look into determining the accuracy of tax prep software for possible future standards over that industry.
One thing is for sure, somewhere Doug’s boss is asking his friends if they know any good CPAs.
Were you concerned that the IRS wasn’t auditing enough poor people? Well here’s a story that will put those fears to rest: The IRS audited a woman in Seattle who made less than $19,000 a year because she was too poor.
Rachel Porcaro was summoned to the IRS after being flagged for an audit. She was told that based on what she was earning, she couldn’t possibly be supporting herself and her two sons:
“They showed us a spreadsheet of incomes in the Seattle area,” says Dante Driver, an accountant at Seattle’s G.A. Michael and Co. “The auditor said, ‘You made eighteen thousand, and our data show a family of three needs at least thirty-six thousand to get by in Seattle.”
“They thought she must have unreported income. That she was hiding something. Basically they were auditing her for not making enough money.”
Initially, the Service told Ms. Porcaro that she owed the Feds $16,000. When Dante Driver sent a letter to the IRS explaining how he thought the code was being wrongly interpreted, the IRS turned around and audited Ms. Porcaro’s parents:
Rob and his wife, Patty, had to send in house blueprints, bank statements, old utility bills. Rachel was asked to prove her children were hers, as well as document the money she’d spent on her children’s clothes, health care and so on.
They racked up $10,000 in accountant bills — $8,000 of which Driver is trying to recover from the IRS.
In the end, the parents were cleared. The IRS also backed off trying to reclaim Rachel’s earned income tax credit.
Ultimately, Ms. Pacaro had to pay over $1,400 in back taxes, penalties, and interest because she couldn’t provide enough receipts to document that she could claim her sons as dependents. Her parents are also not allowed to claim them as dependents, so for tax purposes, the two boys simply don’t exist.
Even if you’re a stickler for tax law, the time and expense of this audit hardly seems worth $1,400. The IRS soldiers likely would claim that they were just following orders but the Service was mum on this story. You can safely bet they won’t be apologizing either. The moral seems to be, regardless of your income, keep those receipts people. Yeesh.
$10 an hour with 2 kids? IRS pounces [Seattle Times/Danny Westneat via The Consumerist]
Perhaps you stick to the honor system when it comes to plugging the mileage into your expense report but for those of you that like to turn that 14.4 miles on Google Maps to 15, may be tempted to fudge further 2010:
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
• 50 cents per mile for business miles driven
• 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
• 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The new rates for business, medical and moving purposes are slightly lower than last year’s. The mileage rates for 2010 reflect generally lower transportation costs compared to a year ago.
As Joe Kristan notes, this is down from the 55 cents in 2009, so our prediction is that many will be stretching the mileage even further in the new decade. You know who you are.
IRS Announces 2010 Standard Mileage Rates [Press Release via Tax Update Blog]
The jig is finally up for 500 UBS customers. The Swiss bank has notified the first group of the 4,000 some-odd clients that UBS said they would turn over to the IRS. This is one of those, “Have you ever had to deliver bad news to someone and if so, how did you handle it?” moments.
The good news for you holdouts is that you can still appeal:
Those taxpayers whose names have been selected have 30 days to appeal to Switzerland’s administrative court. Um, good luck with that. Part of the criteria for determining whether to turn over the names involved instances of “clear fraudulent actions” including the production of false documents. I’m not sure you could argue your way out of that one – even in Switzerland.
Never mind. You people are screwed.
UBS Set To Turn Over First Set of Names [Tax Girl]
If you’re a bigshot at the IRS there are a lot of things that you don’t have to do. For one, you don’t really have to meet anyone’s expectations. For another, you don’t have to worry about delaying plans just because some practicing CPAs have some silly concerns.
The latest perk of being Doug Shulman? Not having to apologize to anyone.
The Tax Court yesterday ruled that it lacks jurisdiction to order the IRS to apologize to a taxpayer. Caldwell v. Commissioner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2009-169 (Nov. 18, 2009):
The part of Caldwell’s motion which we characterize as a “Request for Apology” asks that we require the IRS to enter into the record “a written apology to the Petitioner, signed by the Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service” …
The IRS objected to the Request for Apology on the ground that Congress has not, through section 7430 (relating to administrative or litigation costs) or otherwise, authorized us to grant such relief. [Fn.3] We agree.
There you have it American Taxpayer. Under the law, the IRS doesn’t have to apologize to anyone, despite the evidence that they should probably be apologizing constantly. Going forward, if you want an apology, run down a Republican member of the House of Representatives.
Court Lacks Jurisdiction to Order IRS to Apologize to Taxpayer [TaxProf Blog via Tax Update Blog]
Sometimes we wonder if the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) ever gets tired of telling the IRS that they are doing a lousy job at pretty much everything.
The latest finger wagging from the TIGTA in the Services’ direction has to do with following protocols for processing taxpayer requests for tax returns or transcripts:
Forty-three percent of taxpayer requests for copies of tax returns or transcripts were processed incorrectly or not in accordance with IRS guidelines…
The errors occurred because IRS employees did not always follow guidelines, or because the guidelines were unclear, inconsistent or insufficient in protecting taxpayer information. Existing guidelines allow IRS employees to process taxpayer requests for tax returns or transcripts without an accurate or complete Social Security number and to send copies of returns and transcripts to an address other than that provided to the IRS on tax returns.
Jesus, that’s reassuring. Naturally, the TIGTA is concerned about the American Taxpayer:
“Taxpayers have a right to expect that the IRS will take every measure to protect their tax return information from inappropriate disclosure,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. “The protection of personally identifiable information is a responsibility that the IRS must take more seriously.”
First: judging by the IRS’ track record, they really don’t take anything too seriously, except, perhaps, anything to do with UBS.
Second: Taxpayers have rights? Since when? We’ve been bailing out banks and car companies and you’re concerned about our right to have our tax return information protected? That’s rich. We’ve all been violated to the point of numbness, J. Russell George. Next time, we’d prefer if you said, “The American Taxpayer can expect more of less from the IRS for the foreseeable future. We are in a constant quagmire over here. Please bear with us.”
Honesty. Consider it.
Tax Return Transcripts Expose Personal Information [Web CPA]
The mother of all auditors, the Government Accountability Office, had heard some complaints that maybe the IRS wasn’t doing such a bang-up job on the whole Phase two.
After snooping around, the GAO issued a new report that explained that the IRS needs to work on explaining just what it is they do an why they do it.
The IRS has no documented objectives for the notice phase and no performance measures to indicate how well the phase is performing in resolving debt cases or achieving other desired results…
…However, in almost all cases, for the five business rules the IRS identified as affecting the most taxpayers, the IRS did not have information on the date the rules were established, the rationale for the rule, or data supporting the rationale…
…IRS collection officials also lacked documentation describing the business rules and how they operate. Further, even though IRS officials estimated that the business rules had been established for years, IRS had documentation for an evaluation of only one of the five business rules.
• “…no documented objectives…”
• “…did not have information on the date the rules were established, the rationale for the rule, or data supporting the rationale…”
• “…lacked documentation describing the business rules and how they operate.”
• “…documentation for an evaluation of only one of the five business rules.”
Apparently this is one of those cases where the Service says, “Trust us, we have a plan. But don’t ask us to explain it, we wouldn’t want to bore you. Oh, and don’t ask us how well it’s working. We don’t get too hung up on statistics or success rate.”
We’re just talking about tax dollars after all.
IRS Has Trouble Tracking Debt Collection Notices [Web CPA]
Customer satisfaction is a tough business. Especially when you’re dealing with impatient masses that need that tax refund NOW, so that they don’t miss an installment on a home equity line of credit.
Unfortunately, the IRS wasn’t able to answer 22.4 million calls for this past filing season. This was during normal business hours and were for various reasons including, “the taxpayers hung up, were courtesy disconnected by the IRS, or received a busy signal.” We’d be interested in the ‘courtesy disconnected’ calls as we’re guessing that it some of the calls may have included:
“Sir, I don’t know what the President will do regarding raising your taxes…No sir, I don’t know for an absolute fact that the President isn’t a socialist…No sir, that does not make me a socialist…Hello?”
To the Service’s credit, they did answer 35.8 million calls during normal business hours (still less than half, slackers) according to the report put out by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
But the higher than expected number of calls obviously caught the Service off guard, since they must have made the terrible assumption that taxpayers would try reading the instructions prior to calling for help on the Presidential campaign contribution.
IRS Didn’t Answer 22.4 Million Taxpayer Phone Calls [TaxProf Blog]
Higher Than Planned Call Demand Reduced Toll-Free Telephone Access for the 2009 Filing Season [TIGTA Report]
The IRS, in its continuing effort to squeeze every last dime out of every single one of us, is planning 6,000 audits of companies and their compliance with employment taxes over the next three years.
The Service apparently figured it was about time they started putting the screws to companies since they hadn’t done an analysis since 1984:
Continued, after the jump
The Treasury Department in 2005 estimated, based on the 1984 IRS data, that companies underpay employer taxes by about $14 billion annually. In particular, federal agencies have raised concerns about whether employers are properly classifying workers as company employees or independent contractors.
The Service isn’t wasting any time, already proposing a $14 million tax on FedEx after auditing the courier’s 2002 tax return. The Service is also looking at the company’s 2004 through 2008 tax returns, so FedEx should probably get the check book.
The Service is promising to make company’s experience as ‘least burdensome as we can’ but we’re guessing they’re going to want the money, Lebowski, and being a nuisance will probably be of secondary importance.
IRS to Audit 6,000 Companies to Test Employment Tax Compliance [Bloomberg]
IRS Plans 6,000 Employment Tax Audits [Web CPA]
The IRS has decided to give offshore tax scofflaws almost an extra month to rethink their cheater-cheater pumpkin-eater ways, extending the deadline to October 15th from September 23rd. According to the Service, this will be the absolute, final, drop dead chance for offshore account holders to come forward.
Apparently the IRS means biz-nass as 3,000 account holders have already come forward to declare their offshore income. This is compared to less than the 100 taxpayers that came forward all of last year.
You could safely assume that the public flogging of UBS in front of the entire world helped get the IRS’s point across. So now the extension of the deadline seems to be a friendly reminder that you have ONE LAST CHANCE to play ball.
Plus, the Service must have come to their senses and realized that a tax deadline on the 23rd really doesn’t seem to make a damn bit of sense.
IRS extends tax amnesty deadline to October 15 [Reuters via Tax Prof Blog]
Paul Caron over at TaxProf Blog informs of a report that the IRS put out to let us all know how the Service has developed new and improved procedures for protecting your personal information after 500 laptops went missing.
The Service spent 25 pages boosting our confidence over this latest rebellion by, we can only wildly assume, another congenial IRS employee.
We’re not ones to judge people who prescribe to home remedy treatments of any kind. However, if you choose to run through questionable means of treatment, like say BJ’s, HJ’s, etc., as deductible medical expenses, you’re on your own.
A state judge has ruled that a 77-year-old Bay Ridge tax lawyer must pay back taxes after wrongfully deducting more than $300,000 for prostitutes, porn, sex toys and erotic massages…he dutifully documented each liaison in a notebook titled “Tax Journal,” in case he ever got audited
It sounds like the old guy was trying to be on the up and up about the whole dildo/Hustler/hooker-therapy methods but since paying for sex isn’t legal, the IRS and the New York state auditor (and are probably prudes) weren’t really down with the whole idea. He probably should have known better as Eliot Spitzer would have likely taken advantage of these deductions long ago had it been kosh.
Court Denies Tax Lawyer’s $100,000 Medical Expense Deduction for Prostitutes and Porn [TaxProf Blog]
Would Skipping Viagra Have Avoided These Expenses? [Tax Update Blog]
Okay maybe that’s a stretch but we’re guessing, what with all the rebellious employees, that the IRS is a tough place to work. Because of this high stress environment, normally rational people may jump to conclusions about otherwise harmless religious symbols.
A judge recently dismissed most of the legal claims of a former IRS revenue agent that wore a kirpan to work.
Continued, after the jump
The revenue agent, Kawaljeet Kaur Tagore, sued the IRS after she was fired in July 2006 for wearing a “kirpan” to the IRS office in Houston…The blunt knife is traditionally worn in a curved sheath and is supposed to act as a reminder of a Sikh’s duty to protect the weak and promote justice for all. Tagore’s supervisor objected to the dagger, even though she claimed it never set off the metal detector in her building, and she was told to work from home.
How can you not get behind protecting the weak and justice for all? Still, Tagore was fired after refusing to wear a knife with a shorter, 2.5 inch, blade and returning with the 3 inch knife even though, as the original story reports, she had sharper items in her office, including her scissors.
Tagore filed suit earlier this year:
claiming that the government’s conduct violated both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The defendants included the IRS, the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and several of Tagore’s supervisors.
Bad news is that the judge threw out the some of the Title VII claims but good news is that the one against T. Geith still remains. We’ll continue to follow this story if new developments happen to drop on another painfully slow news day.
IRS Dagger Carrier’s Claims Partly Dismissed [Web CPA Debits & Credits]
Perhaps buckling under the mere thought of looking through 52,000 different UBS accounts for tax evasion, an IRS Agent in Valencia, CA threatened Treasury Agents with “I’m going to kill all of you!” when they attempted to search his home.
When the agents tried to serve the warrant, Bront tried to rush back inside his home, where he kept three loaded guns, but a Treasury agent aimed a gun at him and another drew out a baton. After his arrest, he kicked the front seat of the law enforcement vehicle and pounded the door with his elbow before telling the agents he didn’t mean it when he threatened to kill them.
Not withstanding the seriousness of threatening federal officers, the image of a 49 year old man kicking the front seat of a car like a child that didn’t get any ice cream is almost too much for us to bear.